Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Early Birds Blog Tour - An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir by Elizabeth McCracken

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published by: Little, Brown & Co.
Release date: September 10, 2008

From the description:
"This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending," writes Elizabeth McCracken in her powerful, inspiring memoir. A prize-winning, successful novelist in her 30s, McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster. But suddenly she fell in love, got married, and two years ago was living in a remote part of France, working on her novel, and waiting for the birth of her first child.

This book is about what happened next. In her ninth month of pregnancy, she learned that her baby boy had died."
McCracken wrote the memoir with her healthy newborn from her second pregnancy sitting on her lap as she typed. I really felt like I was with her on her emotional roller coaster as she wrote. So many conflicting emotions: grief, joy, pain, love, solitude and comfort--all poured into each page.

The book is not written exactly chronologically, so from that perspective it was a little fragmented at times. But overall, I found this to be an incredibly moving journey.

Read an excerpt HERE.
Listen to an audio excerpt HERE.

Next stop on the blog tour: Corinne at The Book Nest!

Other stops:
Would you like to win a copy, courtesy of Hachette? I'll enter you once for leaving a comment here, and twice if you post about it on your blog, linking back to this post. I'll pick the winner October 7th. Good luck!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Persepolis 2

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Persepolis last year for my YA Lit class. I didn't have a huge desire to run right out and get Persepolis 2, but the other day I decided to pick it up at the library.

Persepolis and Persepolis 2 are graphic novels detailing the life of the author. Marjane Satrapi was born in Iran and was sent as a teenager to live in Austria to escape the Iranian regime and the Iran-Iraq War. Much of Persepolis 2 details this time in Austria where she struggles to fit into Western society and ideals. Eventually, she returns to Iran where she feels that she doesn't fit in either because of her time in the West. She eventually gets her life on track by focusing on her education.

This book is usually found in the YA section, but I think this book has a lot very mature themes including drug use, violence, sexual content, and explicit language.

Melissa hit the nail on the head when she said this is not an easy book to read, but it does give some important insight on what it is like to live in a country where the people are repressed by the governing regime.

Also reviewed by:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rapunzel's Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shannon Hale has teamed up with her husband Dean Hale and illustrator Nathan Hale (no relation) to create a really unique graphic novel based on the fairy tale, Rapunzel. In this book, Rapunzel's hair helps her escape her prison, fight villains, and battle beasts. Rapunzel sets out on a swashbuckling quest to right the wrongs of Mother Gothel and to reunite with her real mother. And, there just might be a little love story along the way. :)

Definitely recommended for all ages. It is in the YA section of my library, but my eight year old read it and loved it too. The Hales are hard at work on a sequel so stay tuned!

Also reviewed by:
Maw Books went to her release party!
Here's Shannon and Dean on the Today Show (via Nathan Hale's blog)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Someone Like You

Someone Like You (reissue) Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dessen takes this coming-of-age book in a somewhat different direction than The Truth About Forever...although we still have the basic good-girl-with-overbearing-mother-and-likes-bad-boy plot. Protagonist Halley finds herself grappling with setting her own moral boundaries, which are at odds with her mom and her best friend, Scarlett (who ironically happens to be pregnant) and are much more fluid than I would like to see them portrayed. I was definitely disappointed with some of the choices that Halley makes including sneaking around and lying to her parents and some drug and alcohol use all in the name of "finding herself".

I really wanted to like Halley, but she definitely aggravated me. I think that sometimes people have to make mistakes to learn a lesson, but a lot of times I just don't think that's the case at all.

I also found the ending a little too movie-esque (although this book along with That Summer was the basis for How to Deal).

Overall, I think Sarah Dessen is a great storyteller and I will definitely read more. But this one was like and not love for me.

Also reviewed by:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven: A Novel Can't Wait to Get to Heaven: A Novel by Fannie Flagg

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I often get asked when I find the time to read. I read a lot late at night, and if the book is good, I'll stay up and keep reading. This book was a snooze-inducer every time I picked it up. So, I've had more sleep in the last three days than I usually get.

There was nothing about this book that really captured me. I thought on more than one occasion, "What is the point of this book?" It was just a nice, easy, gentle look at a southern Missouri town and all the cliched old ladies who live in it.

The storyline is centered around Elner Shimfissle (the names alone in this book were enough to drive me batty), a 90-something woman who falls off a ladder picking figs. She dies in the hospital, takes a quick trip to heaven, and comes back to life a few hours later. The town goes into a frenzy when they learn she dies, and goes into an equal uproar when she comes back to life.

Maybe I just don't get Fannie Flagg's sense of humor, because I never laughed once. Maybe my background and life experiences didn't give me a very good frame of reference. Maybe I would enjoy this more if I were 30 years older.

I don't know. It was just kind of OK for me.

They also reviewed it (and felt very differently I should add):

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Off Season

The Off Season The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

rating: 5 of 5 stars

I couldn't leave this sitting on my nightstand any longer. I read it today in almost one sitting. (I did have to collect my kids from school at one point!)

I've never seen an author pull off a second book in a trilogy quite like this. The Off Season is the sequel to The Dairy Queen and picks up mere days after The Dairy Queen leaves off. DJ Schwenk starts the school year off well. She's playing on the football team and getting decent grades. She's repaired the relationship she has with her best friend (who has just come out of the closet), she's getting along better with her family, and she has a cute quarterback sort-of-boyfriend...and then it all falls apart.

I laughed out loud and I cried (also out loud). I don't know if I can wait a whole year until the conclusion of this series, but alas I must.

You don't have to take just my word for it. The Off Season was one of YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults in 2008. They also reviewed it:
If you did also, please let me know!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
Release Date: October 21, 2008

I skipped the first 10 pages, read the next 50, and finally decided this book just isn't for me. I should say up front that I am not a big Anita Shreve fan. I've only read one other book of hers, A Wedding in December, which I thought was OK.

Shreve wrote this book after watching the events unfold related to the Duke rape case. The book is set at a New England boarding school and details the fallout from students involved in a shocking sex scandal caught on videotape. The scandal has a huge impact on the town, the administrators, the parents, and of course the students themselves.

They reviewed it:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Orbis Terrarum Challenge

I'm totally late to join this party, but I figure better late than never.

Here's the challenge:

- The Orbis Terrarum Challenge begins April 1st 2008 (you are welcome to join later) through December 20th 2008.
- For the challenge each reader is to choose 9 books (for the 9 months).
-Each book must be by an author from a different nation in our world.

I've read some that qualify for the challenge since April 1st, and those are going to have to count, otherwise I'd never finish in time!

What I've read so far:
  • The Book Thief - Australia
  • Dreamers of the Day - USA
  • Miracle at Speedy Motors - UK
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - France/China
Possibilities to finish up the challenge:
  • Half of a Yellow Sun - Nigeria
  • Out Stealing Horses or The Redbreast - Norway
  • Sister of my Heart or The Twentieth Wife - India/USA
  • The Power of One - South Africa
  • Random Passage or The View from Castle Rock- Canada
  • Silence - Japan
  • Suite Francaise - Ukraine/France
  • Persepolis 2 - Iran/France
  • P.S. I Love You - Ireland

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit. When I originally read the description of this book, it didn't sound all that enthralling. But, then I read so many great reviews (plus I'm such a sucker for an epistolary novel) that I was anxious to get my hands on it.

TGLAPPPS (I'm not typing that whole thing out) is a story set after the close of WWII. Juliet is a 30-something single British writer who is desperately trying to come up with suitable material for the post-war society. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey who found her name in a copy of a book he grew to love during the war. Juliet decides to investigate the history of Guernsey, its people, and the events that occurred on their island during their German occupation. In so doing, she meets an eclectic and lovable group of characters (made up from TGLAPPPS) that will have you laughing with them and sharing their sorrows.

A fun, yet at times appropriately serious novel that I definitely recommend.

They also reviewed it:
Did you as well? Leave me a link and I will add your review!

I ♥ Your Blog

My talented friend Sarah (who recommended The Weaver Takes a Wife--she's so awesome!) gave me this award.

Thank you Sarah!

I would love to pass this award along to:

1. Bethany of B&b ex libris
2. Corinne of The Book Nest
3. Melissa of The Book Nut
4. Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin?
5. Becky from Becky's Book Reviews
6. Anna from Diary of an Eccentric
7. Mrs. B from The Insatiable Reader

Here are the rules for the nominees: 1) Add the logo of the award to your blog 2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you 3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs 4) Add links to those blogs on your blog 5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Under Construction and Another Giveaway

Please forgive me while I switch over to a 3-column format. It will look better soon...I promise.

In the meantime, go and check out Bethany's blog. She's giving away a copy of The 19th Wife!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's In!

Can I just tell you how giddy I am that I get to go and pick this up today at the library?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an adorable book.

DJ Schwenk is a fifteen-year old who lives on a Wisconsin dairy farm that she practically runs herself. Her mom works and her dad has had surgery that renders him unable to help on the farm. As the summer progresses, DJ finds herself in a unique position to train the quarterback of the rival football team whilst getting her chores done. In the process she learns a lot about herself--both how she is viewed and how she wants to be viewed.

I thought the book was funny, sweet and heart-breaking all at the same time. I will definitely be checking out the sequel, The Off Season (which I hear is even better!).

Check out these reviews: Corinne, Melissa, Erin's Off the Shelf and Becky
Let me know if you also reviewed this book!

Matrimony Giveaway

Bethany is hosting a giveaway of a signed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard a lot of good things about the book.

Go check it out!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Truth About Forever

The Truth About Forever The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so sad when this book ended. I wanted to finish it, but I didn't want to finish it. You know?

From Sarah Dessen's website:
Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She's stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she'll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father's recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother's open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it.
I guess I really loved this book because I felt like I could relate to Macy and I couldn't be in a more different stage of life than her. I think that's when you know you've found a great book. The themes of the book--attaining perfection, defining forever, truth and honesty--just resonated with me on such a basic human level.

I'll definitely be reading the rest of Dessen's books...and soon! Highly recommended.

They also reviewed it: Becky from Becky's Book Reviews, Thoughts of Joy, Alessandra's Out of the Blue, Library and Literary Miscellany, and Alix Not Enough Bookshelves.
Let me know if you did too!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Weaver Takes a Wife

The Weaver Takes a Wife The Weaver Takes a Wife by Sheri Cobb South

rating: 5 of 5 stars

My friend Sarah recommended this book, and I'm SO GLAD she did. This book is just pure delight.

The Weaver Takes a Wife is a novel that has a Pygmalion essence to it. Ethan Brundy is a workhouse orphan who through hard work and good luck has amassed a very large fortune. His breeding, however, makes him shunned by most of London society. But, when he spies Lady Helen Radney at the theater, he declares that she will be his wife.

A nice clean romance, easily read in one sitting. It is definitely worth tracking down a copy.

Thank you Sarah!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Measure of a Lady

The Measure of a Lady: A Novel The Measure of a Lady: A Novel by Deeanne Gist

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my first foray into Christian/historical fiction/romance, and I have to say I liked it!

The Measure of a Lady follows Rachel Van Buren and her brother and sister as they arrive in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Rachel's father had passed away during the journey and, upon arrival, Rachel finds herself one of the few "reputable" women of the town among so many not-so-reputable men. As each of the siblings make different choices with their lives, Rachel has to learn how to let go and make some of her own adjustments to how she defines a true Christian. The romance part of it all is predictable, but still very enjoyable to read.

My only complaint is that sometimes Gist does an awkward (for me) kind of switching between third and first person. But, other than that, I just found this book pure fun to read. I can't wait to read A Bride Most Begrudging which I purchased at the used bookstore two weeks ago.

Do you have a favorite book in this genre?

Also read by: Becky's Christian Reviews

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Road Home

The Road Home by Rose Tremain
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release date: August 26, 2008

I requested this book as an ARC, but received it as a new copy with a proclamation on the cover that it just received the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2008.

I really thought the quality of the writing in this book was fabulous. It is the story of Lev, a 43-year old who leaves his mother and daughter in their former-Soviet country home, to seek work in the UK. As Lev works, he tries to come to grips with the loss of his wife and the problems of life back home. I got a great sense of how tough and grueling life can be as a migrant trying to make things better for loved ones. Tremain doesn't gloss over anything. She describes what Lev eats, where he works, what he wears, and the irony of trying to save money while living in a society that squanders it.

Setting this aside, I had some big problems with the book. I was OK until about halfway through. The use of certain expletives was certainly jarring, but it was the sexual situations that finally pushed me over the edge. It was disturbing and uncomfortable, and I just didn't want the book to go there. These things are a personal judgment call, but it was just too much for me.

She also reviewed it: Bermudaonion
Let me know if you did too!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Library Elf

A big thank you to my friend Alison for reminding me about Library Elf. After paying $6 for two DVDs today I finally broke down and signed myself up.

Basically, Library Elf is a free service that will email you when you have items due or when holds come in. The system tracks multiple accounts (which is great for me since I am a member of two library systems) and you can track everyone in the family's accounts.

I'm sold!